‘Crossing borders … today is a synonym of death. All the migration paths around the world are marked by graves.’ Thus opens the call for a global day of action against racism and for the rights of migrants, refugees and displaced people on 18 December. Focusing on that most basic right, the right to life, the statement goes on to highlight the 2,000 people who died in the Mediterranean sea in 2011 alone.
As Matthew Carr points out in his essay and in his excellent new book, Fortress Europe: dispatches from a gated continent, these deaths are not an unfortunate consequence of people with choices taking unnecessary risks, but a direct result of the enforcement of the EU’s border regime against people without the luxury of choice. The deaths are flanked by a whole panoply of indignities, brutalities and forms of imprisonment imposed on migrants across Europe.
Carr goes on to argue that Europe needs migration economically, a point backed up by our immigration ‘mythbuster’. A realistic and humane migration policy would start with politicians recognising this. Yet Europe’s demand for migrant workers and its punitive treatment of actual migrants is not necessarily a contradiction. A migrant population cowed by fear of being removed is unlikely to demand better pay and conditions, although there is a better chance of it doing so if it can rely on solidarity from local populations.
While racism in general can act to divide workers against each other, immigration controls specifically function to weaken migrants’ ability to win better conditions. When the state acts against employers who are employing undocumented migrants, it may not be acting in the interest of that one employer, but it is ultimately acting in the interests of the employing class as a whole.
The Labour Party’s record in this matter has been miserable, tailing tabloid prejudice and imposing the kind of neoliberal policies that have gutted communities and made them susceptible to anti-immigrant rhetoric. The process is circular, with Labour politicians then ‘responding’ to concern over immigration that they helped create.
In this context, Ed Miliband’s approach at the Labour conference in September was not as bad as it could have been, concentrating as he did on condemning ‘exploitation’. Nevertheless, to imagine that one can effectively clamp down on the exploitation of precarious migrants while leaving vicious, racist immigration controls in place is akin to thinking the moon is made of cheese.
Where does this leave us in terms of practical politics? As Vittorio Longhi points out, migrants themselves are increasingly leading the way in Italy, France and of course in the US, where mainly Hispanic migrant workers have mobilised in their hundreds of thousands. In the UK there are also a few signs of this approach. The Latin American Workers Association has worked with unions to help cleaners fight highly exploitative conditions in cleaning companies, sometimes through ‘wildcat’ strikes.
But it has also begun to take action against random immigration status checks (producing a ‘bust card’) and against the UK Border Agency’s increasingly frequent dawn raids, organising phone trees among the Latin American community in London. The latter allow a swift response, in some cases managing to block UKBA vans from departing, and at the least preventing neighbours from being disappeared quietly.
We need a popular politics to match this self-organisation. The main refugee charities in the UK concentrate on ‘improving’ the asylum system while helping individual refugees to negotiate their way through a system stacked against them. Other organisations, such as the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants take a ‘human rights-based approach’ to immigration in general, fighting increased restrictions and anti-immigrant propaganda. But to really win migrant rights we need to organise a politics that goes beyond borders.
This might not be as unwinnable as it first seems. A YouGov poll commissioned by the campaign group No One is Illegal this year found that 54 per cent of people surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: ‘People should be free to live and work wherever they wish, and enjoy all the same rights as all other residents.’ Only 16 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed. While framing is important in such surveys, and the ability of large numbers of people to hold contradictory views should not be underestimated, the figures do suggest the possibility of the left advancing onto the front foot for once − even if not easily.
In the context of increasing austerity, the danger of not trying to do so is apparent in the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece. But austerity has also provoked cross-border progressive responses with the first multi-country strike action in European history on 14 November. There is also a strong tradition of anti-racism in the workers’ movement that we can build on. Migrant and non-migrant workers face immiseration at the hands of both the EU and its individual member governments at the moment. Let’s build a militant workers’ movement that sees humanity in every face, European or otherwise, and fights for the freedom of everyone to move and live without fear.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant